USDA Grants Funds for Rural Digital Conversion

Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman recently announced that 16 recipients in 13 states were selected to receive $15 million in grant funds to finance conversion of television services to digital broadcasting for small rural public television stations. The grants will help bring digital broadcasting to rural American communities that depend on public television stations for local news, weather and agricultural reports, she said, adding that the recipients selected for the program have significant need in their communities.

In Kansas, Smoky Hills Public TV will receive $1.4 million for a new tower, building and digital transmission equipment, and the associated processing, monitoring and test equipment. Prairie Public Broadcasting in North Dakota and St. Lawrence Valley Educational TV in New York will receive roughly $2 million. Other recipients include Tennessee's Upper Cumberland Broadcast Council and West Tennessee Public TV Council; and South Dakota Educational stations KPSD and KZSD.

To assist stations with the transition to digital, Congress recommended in the USD Rural Development 2003 appropriation bill that $15 million of the $51.9 million in distance learning and telemedicine funds be utilized in support of the effort. To meet the requirements for transition, a station must install a new antenna, transmitter or translator and new digital program management facilities. If a station is to perform a program origination, digital cameras, editing and mastering systems also are required.